Commissioners weigh fighting BLM’s Planning 2.0
Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky has suggested that the county might pursue legal action against the Bureau of Land Management for what he sees as a move to consolidate power and undermine local influence in public lands planning.
Commissioners might partner with other local governments to file for an injunction in federal court against the BLM, though the details are hazy.
Buried in a public lands planning initiative with a humdrum name — “Planning 2.0” — is a subtle yet major effort to shift influence away from local governments, said Jankovsky.
These rule changes would be the first substantial revision to the BLM’s process for public land planning in about 33 years.
The BLM’s rule changes repeatedly references the agency moving toward “landscape-scale management” — as in management that makes decisions based on landscape types rather than political boundaries.
This same approach that was used in planning for sage-grouse conservation, and it didn’t differentiate Garfield County’s landscape with that of the rolling hills sagebrush in Wyoming, Jankovsky said. That blocked $33 billion in known natural gas reserves in the county from being tapped because of sage-grouse protection, he said.
“These kind of decisions will affect our economy into the next 40 years, maybe into the next century,” Jankovsky said.
The county has seen similar issues with landscape management of oil shale lands.
In a press release Thursday, the BLM said the new rule would allow the agency to “account for resources that span jurisdictional boundaries, like a mule deer herd that might migrate beyond the borders of a local BLM field office.”
The BLM’s proposed rules repeatedly reference the need to adapt to the changing environment, given onset of climate change, urbanization and overpopulation.
The BLM also has an important rule requiring federal land planning to remain consistent with local rules, and it has been the federal government’s burden to maintain that consistency. Planning 2.0 shifts that burden onto the local governments, and all of the sudden it’s the county that would have to chase federal rules and maintain that consistency, said Jankovsky.
Leah Baker, division chief for BLM’s Decision Support, Planning and NEPA also recently told Rifle’s The Citizen Telegram that the county would maintain its status as a cooperating agency under these rule changes.
The rule changes would create more opportunities for coordination with these agencies because their status mandates the BLM check in with them, she said.
Jankovsky, though, said the BLM is putting itself above the law by ignoring requirements in the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act to undergo certain processes for major changes, including an environmental impact statement.
“This is a change in the balance of power, and it’s being made through administrative orders,” said the commissioner. These rule changes are shifting the BLM’s priority from “multiuse, sustainable yield,” which is the agency’s mandate, to conservation, he said.
“These rule changes would have a major impact on Garfield County, where 67 percent of the land is public land.”
Jankovsky said the changes are being pushed through in an effort to make them final before President Barack Obama leaves office.
It’s too early to say if the commissioners will pursue an injunction to slow down the Planning 2.0 process, but if they do it would have to be in partnership with other local governments of the West, many of whom Jankovksy has said are echoing the commissioners’ concerns.
The initial deadline to submit comments on Planning 2.0 was April 25, but it’s been extended to May 25, partly at the prompting of concerned local governments like Garfield County.
Visit http://tinyurl.com/BLMplanComments to view the proposed rule changes.
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